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A few weeks ago, I bought a few vanilla beans to make mint ice cream. I only needed one, so I put the other bean back into the glass container it came in. Today, I was having a hard time using the vanilla bean while making a trifle.

When I took it out of the container, it was very dry and not pliable as I would have expected. I was still able to scrape the seeds, but the bean was broken into several pieces because it was so brittle.

Is there anything I can do to too-dry vanilla beans to make them easier to use?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I like the method of wrapping it in a damp paper towel and zapping it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. This should moisten it up just enough to allow you to split and scrape. This article mentions that method as well as soaking very briefly in hot water: http://bakingbites.com/2011/06/how-long-do-vanilla-beans-last/

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Perfect! I was hoping for something like this. I was going to try microwaving them, like I would do for brown sugar, but I was afraid that it would destroy the beans. Thank you! –  Chris Laplante Aug 31 '11 at 19:11
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You can still use them in most of the recipes you would otherwise. In custards, like ice cream, just soak the whole bean in the hot liquid (that will eventually end up in the final product) for a moment and it will re-hydrate enough to use easily. Many, many recipes are such and you'll just need to soak them a moment in the recipe's liquid.

Worst case - bust out the booze and roll your own extract.

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That's what I though; thanks for the tips! –  Chris Laplante Aug 28 '11 at 21:01
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At this point the "highest and best use" [IMHO] of a dry vanilla bean would be to produce "vanilla sugar". Bury the beans in 2 cups of sugar in a tightly sealed container and let it set for 2 + weeks. Over time the flavor of the vanilla will become infused with the sugar.

At this point you can use it like 'normal sugar' anywhere a hint of vanilla would be enjoyed. Some of these ideas would include:

  • Coffee and/or tea (hot or iced)
  • In fresh made lemonade
  • On a fresh doughnut (or beignet)
  • Atop sugar cookies
  • On strawberries or other fresh fruit
  • With Breakfast Cereal (hot or cold)

this list is only a starting point feel free to try whatever you think might be good.

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Very good idea. The seeds were definitively moist enough to impart a nice vanilla flavor in sugar. –  Chris Laplante Aug 27 '11 at 21:43
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I use a clean coffee grinder and grind the entire bean as fine as I can. A dry bean that is ground works very well in ice cream, and probably lots of other recipes.

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A bean that was cut from the vine when yellow at the tip (fully mature) and properly dried/cured will keep it's flavor for "years". Vanilla beans with the above "curing" will get better and it's not unusual for these vanilla beans to develop "vanillin crystals" after a few years. Even when dry as "wood stick" will still impart flavor. At Xanath Ice Cream organic we blend the whole bean into the cream for about 5 minutes until the cream (Straus) becomes warm in the Vita-Mix. You take the mix out and mix with the rest of the cream you going to use for making ice cream overnight in the fridge use the following day. The same if you make cream anglaise (custard) etc. (In this case scrape the seeds out of the bean "warm/boil" cream with the pod inside leave the pod inside as a decoration. On cookies grind the whole bean leave in fridge overnight and bake the next day. Pod will add extra flavor and fiber. Sincerely, Juan Vanilla, Saffron Imports

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